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How to apply a self-tanner?

Self-tanner is the only way to achieve a natural sun-kissed complexion without worrying about the effects that the sun can have on the skin (premature aging, pigmentation damage, sunburn, etc.). However, it can be challenging to achieve a beautiful, even tan without streaks, stripes, or unsightly demarcations. Discover here the basic tips to help you correctly apply your self-tanner, and thus achieve a natural, even tan and more lasting results.

Rule No. 1: Prepare your skin with exfoliation.

Self-tanners work like a dye: they chemically react and tint the dead cells on the skin's surface to give it that much-anticipated bronzed color. Therefore, before applying a self-tanner, it is recommended to use an exfoliating product (peeling, grain scrub, exfoliating glove, etc.) to help remove dead skin cells and ingrown hairs, which contribute to uneven tanning .Indeed, skin that has not been exfoliated beforehand will make the application of the self-tanner less easy and the result would then not be uniform.

This step is particularly crucial around various joints (elbows and knees), where the skin is thicker, to prevent self-tanning product from accumulating in these areas. Moreover, considering that the duration of the tan also depends on the renewal of skin cells, it's better to exfoliate to maintain a tan for a longer period.

It is thus recommended toperform an exfoliation a few days before application to achieve smoother skin, thereby optimizing the product's performance and allowing the self-tanner to adhere better to the skin. However, it is important to note that certain treatments (AHA, BHA, retinol, grainy scrubs, etc.) should not be used just before applying a self-tanning product and especially not after, to avoid affecting the color and reducing the lifespan of the tan.

Rule No. 2: Remember to shave beforehand.

Shaving is a light form of physical exfoliation of the skin. Aside from removing "unwanted" hair, this means it can also "scrape off" the top layer of dead skin cells, much like a traditional exfoliation. However, the traditional active ingredients in self-tanning products (erythrulose, DHA, etc.) interact with the corneocytes located in the horny layer of the epidermis to provide a bright and natural tan.

Thus, if you shave or wax, do so at least 24 hours before applying the self-tanner. Also, try to limit shaving sessions when you are using a self-tanner for a long-lasting and even tan. The same goes for hair removal, whether it's with wax, threading, an electric epilator, or a depilatory cream.

Conversely, can we apply self-tanner to hairy areas?

Some believe that hair can interfere and compromise the achievement of a natural and even fake tan. However, it is not necessary to shave or wax. For better results, opt for the use of an applicator mitt.

Rule No. 3: Properly hydrate extremely dry areas.

Elbows, ankles, knees... these dry areas of the body need to be particularly moisturized to prevent self-tanner from concentrating too much in these folds, causing the faux tan to appear darker than elsewhere, resulting in a less natural look. However, on the day of the self-tanner application, avoid moisturizing your skin. Indeed, the application of a moisturizing cream can create a barrier that affects how the self-tanning agents react with skin cells, thus preventing the self-tanner from fully and evenly developing.

In addition to self-tanning agents, our body self-tanning gel contains aloe vera (INCI: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder) for its moisturizing properties and turmeric extract (INCI: Curcuma Longa Root Extract) for its antioxidant virtues.

Rule No. 4: Apply the self-tanner in sections and with long strokes.

Although DHA and erythrulose are generally safe, it is recommended to test a small amount of the self-tanner on a part of your body before a broader application. If side effects such as redness or irritation occur, immediately discontinue use of the product.

After preparing your skin, you can now apply a self-tanner to your clean and completely dry skin. It is best to apply the self-tanner in the evening, as it takes about six hours to see the result. Although there are different ways to apply a self-tanner, including doing it bare-handed, using a velvety applicator mitt transforms the tanning process. Efficient and practical, it allows for covering larger body areas more quickly and achieving a more natural result. It also helps to absorb any excess product and thus reduces the risk of an uneven finish in case of heavy-handed application.

If you use your hands to apply your self-tanner, thoroughly wash your hands and nails with water and soap to prevent your palms from turning orange.

Apply a "generous" amount of product onto the glove, and completely and evenly cover the skin without rubbing. Start from the lower part of the body or face and gradually move upwards. Distribute the product by light and long vertical movements, and by sections (legs > arms > chest > back). Remember to spread the self-tanner over all exposed areas, extending it to your wrists, the backs of your hands, your ankles, and your feet for a more natural effect.

Our self-tanning products are quick-drying and pose no risk of transferring onto clothing or pillows. However, when applying the body self-tanning gel, wait at least 10 to 20 minutes before getting dressed.

Rule No. 5: Hydrate and wear sunscreen.

To maintain a fresh tan for as long as possible, hydrate daily. Indeed, hydration is important for a more even and long-lasting result, preventing the skin from drying out and flaking.

Although it can mimic the sun-kissed complexion of natural melanin tanning, theself-tanner alone does not provide any sun protection. A study has shown that the tan obtained with DHA only provides a sun protection factor (SPF) of 3, which is far from sufficient. To protect the skin from the harmful impact of UVA and UVB rays, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day with an SPF of 30 or more.

All these tips can help you achieve a natural-looking tan. However, this does not guarantee a perfect result. Uneven areas may still appear. Self-tanning requires practice to master.


  • FABRIKANT J. & al. A review of common tanning methods. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology (2015).


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